September 13, 2013

Major League Notebook: Indians search for fans

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - The standings show the Cleveland Indians are in the middle of a wild playoff race. The stands in Progressive Fields seem to say otherwise.

Once one of baseball's top attractions, the Indians, who sold out 455 consecutive games from 1995-2001 during a golden era for the franchise, have been playing in front of many more empty seats than filled ones.

Lagging attendance is nothing new in Cleveland, where Indians fans have shown their skepticism about this year's team and others along with mistrust for ownership by staying away. But what makes this different is October is nearing and the Indians are contending. That should be reason enough for support in a city that hasn't had one of its three pro sports teams win a title in 49 years.

After playing in front of the two smallest September crowds (9,794 and 9,962) in the ballpark's history, Indians center fielder Michael Bourn appealed to Cleveland fans.

"Come on out and watch us play," Bourn said. "That's all we want."

Bourn wasn't begging, but he was the first Indian to publicly state what has been discussed privately inside the team's clubhouse: Where are our fans? It's a question that closer Chris Perez posed last season and for which he was harshly criticized.

"We're just mentally drained. Years of mental abuse," joked Kevin Muche, a 61-year-old fan from Cleveland and one of 12,085 at Wednesday's matinee against Kansas City. "I don't know what the deal is, maybe they just don't have the money or something to come down. I came to more games this year than I did last year. I'm not a fair-weather fan. I root for the Tribe no matter what."

CARDINALS: Catcher Yadier Molina missed his second consecutive game against Milwaukee because of an illness in the family.

Molina's mother, Gladys, is recuperating from an unspecified surgery performed Wednesday.

PADRES: San Diego promoted Trevor Hoffman to upper level pitching coordinator and special assistant to General Manager Josh Byrnes.

Hoffman, the former star closer, will evaluate and help coordinate all pitchers at Double-A, Triple-A and the big league team.

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